Parent to Parent: Teaching our kids to become leaders

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Many parents would like to raise a leader and many see leadership potential in their kids. But raising a leader isn't an easy task. On Parent to Parent, Malia Jacobson of Parentmap is here to tell us more.

Why is raising a leader so challenging?

Even the definition of “leadership” is somewhat murky. We used to think of a leader as someone with material success. Today, we see leadership differently. A modern leader is someone who inspires others to reach their greatest heights.

What traits do young leaders need?

Today’ electronic media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have really leveled the leadership playing field by giving shy or self-effacing leaders a voice. Now, it’s not just about who talks the loudest. Anyone has the ability to organize outreach efforts and have their message heard by a wide audience in a way that wasn’t possible a few years ago.

The experts interviewed for this article honed in on a few traits that are important for modern leaders:  personality traits like self-motivation, confidence, and planning, and interpersonal skills like communication, conflict management, and honesty.

True leadership exists only at the intersection of independence and interdependence; leaders need to first motivate themselves and then motivate others.

When should parents start encouraging leadership traits in their kids?

We found that it’s not always the age that parents would think. Middle school and high school are typically when leadership opportunities arise for kids—they can lead a school club or a sports team. But as a couple of the experts said in this piece, waiting until the teen years to talk about leadership is really missing an opportunity.

By 5 or 6, kids understand consequences and right and wrong, and they’re ready to start learning some of the key tenants of leadership.

A great way to start is by emphasizing ownership over one’s own actions. That we’re all responsible for our own decisions and that our decisions can impact others. There are some great examples in the article of ways to do this.

How can parents help kids grow leadership skills?

From tots to teens, effective leadership begins at home. Parents can encourage leadership growth with simple, at-home tactics:

  1. Focus on each child’s strengths. Every child has leadership potential, but they all have different strengths, whether they prefer service projects or team sports. Recognizing each child’s unique strengths gives the child a platform for future leadership development.
  2. Pay attention to kids’ companions. Get to know kids’ friends. Kids will begin to resemble the five or six people they spend the most time with, making their choice of pals an important aspect character development.
  3. Seek kids’ input whenever possible. Leadership skill-building can begin with the smallest children and the simplest of choices—from deciding which shoes to buy to picking the site for a playdate with friends. Older kids can help plan meals, family game nights, even family vacations.
  4. Create a sense of bigger purpose. Connect kids to the larger world outside their front door, through participation in local events or a globally-oriented service project. This gives kids provides valuable perspective, and exposes them to leadership role models.

For more information, read the ParentMap article.

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